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07 July 2006 @ 12:52 pm
Random apostrophe musings  
This one is for all the punctuation enforcers out there. You know who you are.

Contractions use apostrophes: can't, shouldn't, won't. The idea is that the apostrophe represents missing letters: can't becomes cannot, shouldn't becomes should not, won't waves its magic wand to become will not (because willn't would just be silly ... but I still adore the underused amn't).

This extends to the representation of mispronunciations and lazy speech: Oh, I s'pose so; "Goin' Down to South Park"; "Mary, Mary, why you buggin'?" Here, again, the apostrophe represents elided letters or syllables.

But there is a class of similar terms representing the common pronunciation of phrases ending in to. Most people I know -- myself included -- don't fully enunciate want to or going to, for example. If I'm writing dialect, I will represent that as an alternate spelling: I don't wanna and I'm not gonna.

But I know people (hi!) who would instead write that as I don't wanna' and I'm not gonna'.

I don't know that there's a "right" or "wrong" when it comes to representing speech. But as I see it, in this case, there aren't elided letters to represent. Those letters have instead been replaced, so the apostrophe doesn't belong.

Yet this usage doesn't belong only to one person; I've seen it in several different contexts, though still only in a minority of cases. It seems to me that it might be a New England thing, but that's just an impression I've picked up.

So: Does anybody 'round here know more on this subject? Are these types of apostrophe usage covered in schools or usage manuals? Do you know of any regional influence on the subject? Bonus question: is there a formal term for the conversion of want to to wanna(')? I'm interested in citations, opinions, related ramblings, or any other contributions, so feel free to chime in!
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Nomi: grammar_crisis_room (wanderingbastet )gnomi on July 7th, 2006 06:09 pm (UTC)
I'd never put an apostrophe after "gonna" or "wanna."

Not a formal term by any means, but I've heard the tendency to use "gonna," "wanna," etc., called "slurvian" as a dialect.
michelel72michelel72 on July 7th, 2006 06:42 pm (UTC)
If it's in a manuscript you're reviewing, though, would you correct it out? Or would you leave it as a matter of the writer's personal style? I've given manuscript comments, but I'm certainly not an Official Copy Editor, so I just discussed the matter with the writer and gave my opinion.

Slurvian is a nifty term. I like.
Nomi: threaten_in_public (celli)gnomi on July 7th, 2006 09:25 pm (UTC)
I'd edit it out.

It would also depend on house style, though, if there's a house style for it. The press I work for uses "gonna" and "wanna," no apostrophes, but there's no official house style on it, as far as I know.
Amy- ninja extraordinaire, bad monkeyninjamonkey73 on July 9th, 2006 01:03 am (UTC)
On a side note, I love your user image. My sisters and I still do entire scenes from memory when something rings the Clue bell. (I was a little sad to be reminded it came out in '85 when I just pulled up the link. Seems like only yesterday...)

My other two favorites: "And monkey brains, although a popular Cantonese cuisine, is not often found in Washington D.C" and "I'm gonna go home and sleep with my wife".
Nomi: threaten_in_public (celli)gnomi on July 9th, 2006 11:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks!

celli was talking about the movie at one point a while back, and a bunch of us got into a quote string. For each one of us that contributed a quote, celli made an icon of that quote. This is one of my favorite quotes in the whole film, and I tend to use it for grammar-related posts and comments.
Amy- ninja extraordinaire, bad monkeyninjamonkey73 on July 9th, 2006 12:49 am (UTC)
I have to admit to using the apostrophe here (hi yourself!), but not all the time. First off, let me thank you for prompting me to pull some old books off the shelf. They smelled all old-booky and I was temporarily in heaven.

All I could find was the American Heritage definition of wanna, which refers to it as a contraction (thereby associating it roughly with the use of an apostrophe). The dictionary ref doesn't use one, but one could argue for wan'a in place of "want a", although I've never done it.

When I use it, I'm feeling like the speaker didn't make it to the "to" at all and kinda' just dragged out the t-less "want". But then I sometimes don't use it, so I'm not even at a consensus on it. I have a copy of Anguished English somewhere, but I'll be darned if I can find it. This feels like Lederer's kind of rant. Maybe he's already addressed it in one of his several works on how we've collectively mangled the language. Gots to give a fellow Mensan. Holla', Mr. Lederer. Holla'.